Amongst other yard treasures, we were fortunate to inherit a beautiful loquat tree at the home we moved into a little over a year ago. I have seen loquats growing around Texas throughout my life, but for whatever reason, I was never inspired to try the fruit. Living along the Blanco River in the Texas Hill Country as newlyweds years ago, my husband would often point them out to me growing along the river’s edge as we waded in the cold green water across white limestone rocks. He had fond memories of growing up eating them in his grandparents’ yard in Houston.
Now that we have one growing in our yard, it was time for me to finally try one. My first impression: surprisingly delicious! And, like most things I avoid, I wondered why I didn’t think to try them sooner? Loquats are tart and juicy. Their flavor and texture reminds me of a cross between a citrus fruit, a peach and a fig. My littlest child loves to gather edibles outside, and as soon as we saw the bright orange fruits arrive, she insisted we bring a step ladder out and get to work.
With our first collection, as we washed and de-seeded them all, we were excited to notice the unexpectedly large brown glossy seeds inside.
We rinsed and dried the seeds, certain there was a cool craft or project we can eventually use them for, but alas, they lost their gloss and cracked once the moisture was gone.
We took the rest of the fruit flesh and set to work canning some preserves (recipe below).
Loquat Fun Facts
Native to China, the loquat tree is an evergreen with large, stiff leaves, Loquat trees are well-adapted to virtually all soils, and begin to bear fruit within 2 to 3 years, “with a well-developed older tree easily producing 100 pounds of fruit” (!).
Loquats have been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years, and are believed to have been brought to Japan from China during the Tang Dynasty. It is also apparently believed that Chinese immigrants carried the loquat to Hawaii, which eventually allowed this tangy fruit to make its way and now thrive in the warmer states today, like Texas (woot!), Florida Hawaii, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Loquat flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe at any time from early spring to early summer.
I love the idea of using food as medicine, and I was excited to learn in my research via a blog called Foraging Texas, that tea made from loquat leaves is used for medicinal purposes in Asia. “Besides containing large concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, loquat leaves also also contain amygdalin which is believed to help repair liver damage/increase liver functioning. For diabetics, loquats leaves contain triterpens (tormentic acid) and assorted polysaccharides, both of which may stimulate insulin production which is beneficial for diabetics. Leaves and creams made from the leaves were placed on skin cancers and loquat leaf tea was used to fight internal cancer.” I also read that the leaves are used for soothing sore throats and inflamed skin, digestive and respiratory systems. Very cool!
I dug up a bit of nutritional data about the fruits from this site: Rich in insoluble dietary fiber, pectin, the loquat is low in saturated fat and sodium, and is also a good source of iron, copper, calcium, vitamin A, potassium, and manganese. The body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is essential in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for as a cofactor in cellular oxidation as well in red blood cell formation. Pectin holds back moisture inside the colon, and thus functions as bulk laxative. Pectin helps protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time to toxic substances as well as binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon. Pectin has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by lowering its reabsorption in the colon through binding bile acids, resulting in its excretion from the body. Vitamin-A helps maintain the integrity of mucosa and skin. Lab studies suggest that consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A, and flavonoids may offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers. Fresh loquat fruit is a good source of potassium and some B-complex vitamins such as folates, vitamin B-6 and niacin and contain small amounts of vitamin-C. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
There are so many creative loquat recipes online. I have only played with preserves right now (recipe at the bottom of this post), but I plan to check out some of the following ideas:
Here is the recipe I created for my preserves:
On the first batch, I made the mistake of retaining too much of the boiling water, resulting in a very thin batch of preserves. I also used more sugar on the first batch and cooked it longer, in an attempt to thicken it. The second batch I made (which is the recipe I’m offering below), I strained most of the water and I used 1/2 as much sugar. The consistency turned out much better on the second group, and I find that I prefer the more tart preserves over the sweeter one.
-4-5 cups of de-seeded loquats
-1/2 cup organic cane sugar
-water to just cover the loquats
-juice of one lemon (sometimes I also put thin slices of the entire lemon, including the peel)
Discard seeds and cover loquats with boiling water for around 40 minutes. Strain the water into a cup as a reserve. Add a few tsps of the boiled water back to the pot for blending purposes. Pulse in a food processor (I used Vitamix) until the preferred texture is reached. Put back in hot pot and stir in 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon juice and mix well until the sugar is dissolved. If a thicker consistency is desired, allow it to simmer a little longer and test with a spoon periodically. Fill sterilized jelly jars and cover. Give jars a bath in boiling water for 10 minutes and tighten jar lids as they cool. Make sure all of the lids no longer “pop” to ensure they properly seal. I read that properly sealed jars should keep in the pantry for a year.
They make such pretty little gifts!
Have you made any loquat recipes at your house? Please share and let me know your favorites so I can try some new ones!